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Sucrose Analgesia for Infants: State of the Science

Posted Dec 29 2010 12:00am
From Medscape Pediatrics > Viewpoints

Analgesic Effects of Sweet-Tasting Solutions for Infants: Current State of Equipoise

Harrison D, Bueno M, Yamada J, Adams-Webber T, Stevens B
Pediatrics. 2010;126:894-902

Study Summary

This article describes a meta-analysis of multiple randomized controlled trials that evaluated oral sucrose (or other sugar product) for acute, painful procedures in infants. Harrison and colleagues examined whether a state of equipoise (equilibrium about whether an intervention is likely to be helpful) still exists in regard to the use of oral sucrose for pain amelioration.

They noted that many randomized, placebo-controlled trials have been conducted despite the fact that reviews published throughout the 2000s demonstrated overwhelming evidence of clinical effectiveness. In addition to conducting a meta-analysis of the literature, this study sought to identify research questions or areas upon which future studies could focus.

The investigators reviewed 4 online literature databases and existing evidence-based reviews on the topic. They identified 125 primary research studies on the topic, with 49% using heel lance as the painful procedure, 14% using venipuncture or intramuscular injection, and 6% studying pain relief related to circumcision.

In 103 studies (93%), the use of sucrose or other sweet solution reduced pain response. One of 8 studies evaluating pain control with circumcision had negative results, but the other 7 (87.5%) demonstrated benefit. The solutions used in the trial varied greatly, but the most common was sucrose.

In general, sweeter solutions (higher concentrations) tended to have higher rates of success. The investigators concluded that there is no longer ethical justification for placebo groups in trials investigating the use of sweet solutions to limit short-term procedural pain. They pointed out the following knowledge gaps that could ethically be the focus of future investigation
* Are sweet solutions effective in mitigating procedural pain for extremely premature infants?
* Are repeated administrations of the solution more effective than single administrations?
* Are sweet solutions effective over extended hospitalizations?
* How do sweet solutions compare with narcotic pain medications for short procedures?
* What is the effectiveness of sweet solutions for longer noxious procedures?
* Are sweet solutions effective in this setting for older children?

Harrison and coworkers suggested that these unanswered questions should be the focus of future research.
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